All things Whisky & Cigars
Pepper, cinnamon, ginger, herbs
Aged Scotch whisky is often much softer and easier on the palate than its alcohol strength would imply. So much so, in fact, that sometimes you need something to liven things up a bit. Luckily, a good number of single malts possess lively spicy flavours, some of them in great enough quantities to challenge tequila (naming no names). Others are a little more restrained, but still with the warming tingle of Christmas pudding and mulled wine.
A lengthy maturation, particularly in a large cask (e.g. ex-sherry), generally means more oxygen is allowed into the cask to react with the spirit and develop more complex flavours. These may include spicy flavours - lignin compounds break down over time, releasing more intense spicy notes into the spirit, while the high acidity and relatively low alcohol content of sherry often serve to bring out spicier notes from the cask wood. Clove and cinnamon flavours often derive from eugenols produced via toasting - that is, firing the wood of the casks over a medium heat for anything between 15 to 45 minutes (to be contrasted with charring, where the wood is fired for a very short time over a much hotter flame). Some of the most intense spicy flavours come not from the cask at all, but from the still: a lighter spirit (such as that produced in a tall still) will often have more kick than something more rounded.
Spicy characteristics are generally used to complement other strong flavours, such as dried fruit (e.g. Aberlour) or peat (Ardbeg), but the style is probably best showcased by the expansive and varied Highland region. Highland malts generally eschew excessive subtlety for bold and full flavours, and so often showcase strongly spicy styles. The best examples by far are in the Northern Highlands: Glenmorangie has a light spice that is perhaps better described as herbal; but a small distance to the north, Clynelish and Old Pulteney provide a salty, firey yet still sweet style that prickles all over the palate. Their eastern counterparts, such as Glen Garioch or Glendronach, retain a gingery warmth that it is not so much restorative as elixir.
The strength and spark of such potions pairs very well with similarly lively cigars: Partagas is an obvious match, as is Ramon Allones; but the peppery notes of a Cohiba or Bolivar will also go very well.